By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – When the owners of All About the Pup announced they were suspending services as of June 1, their statement created a firestorm of concern and confusion around Westborough and online.
A community Facebook page was filled with more than 350 comments—primarily expressing support of the dog boarding facility located on Brigham Street. Calls for a petition, protests in the rotary and even a dog parade in front of Town Hall were among the suggested responses to the situation.
Owners Todd and Lily Hathaway made further comments online, explaining they had taken many costly measures to mitigate barking noise, including the installation of a large sound wall in their outdoor play yard and a variety of sound insulation solutions to reduce noise in their building.
Todd Hathaway wrote that in order to “eliminate the barking,” at the town’s request, they would need to introduce behavior techniques that the business did not support.
Despite putting “blood, sweat and tears into the issue,” it hadn’t been resolved, the owner said. He added that he hoped the business offered “excellent care and service to all the pups and their families” during its time in Westborough.
He added that they are “devastated” their efforts were not enough to stop neighbors from complaining.
During a June 8 Select Board meeting, Chair Allen Edinberg took time to talk about the matter.
He said that the board, town manager and community development director had received correspondence from several people about the business. He said people assumed the town took action resulting in the closure, which is not the case.
Edinberg explained that the business is located in an industrial zone that allows dog boarding “use by right.” As a result, All About the Pup was not subject to any special permit or public hearing process.
Because of its location, in 2016 it did go through a review design process for changes to the exterior of the building, he said.
The Select Board chair said the owner was made aware of a relevant zoning bylaw regarding noise issues/nuisance and the fact that neighbors could possibly complain about the noise.
The bylaw is enforced by the zoning enforcement officer, who is also the community development director, Edinberg said, and not the animal control department.
He said the bylaw means that neighbors within 400 feet of the property have no grounds for complaint or recourse. In a business district, the radius would be 200 feet.
Edinberg acknowledged that after the town received complaints from residents, the owners spent “time, energy and money” trying to mitigate the problem—installing soundproofing and a solid wood wall which was later repaired. The business also changed operational procedures, he said.
He added that owners were informed of a noise complaint about barking dogs in October 2020 and again in April 2021. The April complaint came from a neighborhood located beyond the 400 feet where noise was determined to be “audible” and, therefore, in violation of the zoning bylaw.
Edinberg emphasized that the town did not recommend any action but sent a letter to the owners asking for proposed mitigation measures and advising them of their right to appeal.
A meeting with representatives of the business followed, and officials approved a request for a 60-day extension, he said.
A follow-up meeting was pending on July 12 when officials heard about the business suspending its services.
“The town did not charge fines or take steps to alter operations,” Edinberg said. It is the town’s preference to “work to a solution rather than take punitive enforcement.”
He added that Westborough works diligently to welcome businesses, large and small, and recognizes the “sense of community” All About the Pup provided to residents and other people who work and shop in town.
Edinberg concluded that the town is saddened a better resolution couldn’t be reached, and he wished the owners the best “as they determine their path forward.”